A visit to a very special factory in the middle of the USA...
Ever since we became Riedell dealers we have been dreaming of visiting the rollerskate factory. But to take a plane all the way from Amsterdam to Red Wing Minnesota just seemed a bit too much. When we decided to take a sabbatical in Canada Marcel immediately said…. ‘now we can go to Red Wing!!’ And so we did.. Read more about our experiences in this blog.
Although it’s a lot closer to Calgary then to Amsterdam, it’s still a two hour flight and it felt like a huge adventure. We were anxious to see an all American town but most of all see the rollerskates manufacturing process and to meet the people behind this brand. We landed in Minneapolis and drove for about one hour to Red Wing, we only stopped at a bike and coffee shop, since our motto is wheels and coffee! ;-)
When we arrived in Red Wing we checked into the St James hotel, one of the oldest hotels in town and rumor has it that it’s haunted.. (perhaps that explains the miraculous disappearance of our car keys the next day???). Clint Riegelman from Riedell came to the hotel to welcome us there and made us feel very welcome! We walked around town and were pleasantly surprised by the nice atmosphere and very friendly people.
The next morning (after some stress about the car keys, that we luckily found later that day) it was finally time to go see some rollerskates being made. We had the pleasure of meeting Stacy who handles our color lab orders and it was so nice to meet the friendly face behind the name. Then we were introduced to one of the experts of the color lab shoemakers team: Anthony. Anthony went out of his way to show us how the skates are made. He took us around the factory explaining about the process and we got to meet a lot of employees from the factory. Many of them have worked at the Riedell factory all their lives, both a newer and an older generation, including a lady named Marge who was about to retire by the end of the month. She had worked at the factory for 47 years! When we asked her how she felt about her retirement she said with a big smile that although she was looking forward to it she was also sad to leave the factory.
We had the opportunity to see quite a lot of the steps in the manufacturing process: the cutting of the leather, the stitching of the lining, the making of the eyelets and hooks, the sowing of the tongue of the boot, the pressing of the leather on to the last, the nailing of the leather to the sole, the adding of the sole to the boot, the hand painting of the heel and sole and finally the process of mounting plates to the boots. And this is just a simplified list of things we saw. Depending on the type of boot, the number of operations can be up to 100! So far we could see, every workstation is manned by a kind and motivated employee who takes great care of that specific detail in the process.
What we’ve learned from this visit is that basically anything is possible for the people at Riedell. They put a lot of heart in their product and are willing to go out of their way to make your wishes come true. We feel that their devotion to making a high quality rollerskate completely matches the devotion of most skaters to their skates and their practice. Perhaps that is one of the main reasons why so many skaters love skating on Riedell skates.
We both had ordered new boots (Marcel sold his 220 boot and will now be skating on the 336 model, and I sold my teal boots that were a tiny bit too small and will be skating around on brand new 172’s) and it was magical to pick them up at the factory. After saying our goodbyes and thank you’s we left the factory feeling incredibly blessed and filled with great memories and images of skates, machines and people.
We topped of our trip with a visit to the local skate rink Rollergarden in Minneapolis that night and the next day we visited Paisley Park where Prince lived and recorded most of his songs. Both visits were very meaningful to us as well in terms of skating. We don’t have big skate rinks in The Netherlands and to visit one in the USA is almost like stepping on holy ground. The same goes for walking around at Paisley Park where so much soulful music was created that we love to listen and skate to. After all, music is the essence of rhythm skating.
In summary, this was a once in a lifetime trip for us and we feel grateful for this opportunity. Visiting Riedell has made us more aware of the facts and details of different models of rollerskates and we will be pleased to put this knowledge into use when helping our customers.
Click on one of these pics to acces the gallery!
Marcel & Esther
P.S. Special thanks to our Canadian family for having Charlie over while we are away.. we couldn't have done this without them!